No doubt for many years to come, fans will continue to argue vigorously over the contribution Chris Chibnall has made to Doctor Who. His era as the showrunner has proved to be one of the most contentious since, well, whatever the last highly contentious one was.
Whatever you may think of the relative merits – or otherwise – of his stint as creative lead of the series, you would be hard pressed to argue that it let the show’s mythology stagnate. It would perhaps be more accurate to say that he had gleefully lobbed a grenade into what we thought that we knew about the Doctor’s origins, and added considerably to the woes of anybody vainly trying to keep track of the numbering of the character’s different incarnations.
Some might uncharitably say that Chibnall was just copying the homework of Steven Moffat, who threw a major Sonic Scrrewdriver in the works by offering us a previously unseen (and unnumbered) iteration, in the shape of Sir John Hurt’s War Doctor. Yes, Chibnall did something similar, but went further than Moffat did by telling us that the Doctor had an unknown set of lives prior to what had long been thought to be William Hartnell’s original.
Suddenly, all bets were off, and the very lengthy history of the programme was upended, with nothing being certain anymore. With Jo Martin’s Fugitive Doctor, we had a version we had never seen before, one who was seemingly not even a native-born Gallifreyan, with flashbacks showing us a young pre-Doctor as a child whose ability for bodily regeneration was stolen from them, helping to make the Time Lords who they were.
At some point, this proto-Doctor had their memories wiped by the Time Lords, leaving our Doctor with no clue about all their past lives, including how many there had been, as well as how just long they had lived. At the point we met her, the Fugitive Doctor was on the run from her own – adoptive – people, hiding away in contemporary Gloucester as a tour guide, before our Doctor stumbled across her, and found out about their personal history being a lie.
Creatively, this is exciting territory to chart, as all of the pre-Hartnell Doctors are effectively a blank canvas, barring a few details. The potential is clearly there to tread new ground in exploring this unknown period of the Doctor’s life, and Big Finish have recently announced Jo Martin will reprise the role of the Fugitive Doctor for a new series of audio dramas. It was therefore almost inevitable the Fugitive Doctor would be explored in other media, and Titan Comics are now giving us Doctor Who: Origins.
The regular Doctor Who Comic team of writer Jody Houser and artist Roberta Ingranata team up once again to take us into this unknown part of the Doctor’s backstory, showing us a time when she was still working for the shadowy ‘Division’, a clandestine organisation which works behind the scenes of Time Lord society. Here, the Fugitive Doctor is sent off on a mission with a new companion, and the goal of averting an apparently potential catastrophe for Gallifrey – but all may not be what it seems…
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As we have so little material to go on, it would be hard to say whether or not Houser has managed to capture the Fugitive Doctor’s character, as she is still largely an enigma to us. As such, Houser is able to play fast and loose, having freedom to define just who the Fugitive Doctor is, at least at this part of her life, before she rebelled and ran away from ‘home’. As for Ingranata’s art, she manages to capture the look and feel of the Fugitive Doctor, as well as serving up a faithful rendition of one of the best looking TARDIS control rooms seen on our screens to date.
Although still early days, Doctor Who: Origins bodes well for potentially being a fascinating look at an unexplored part of the Doctor’s past, and #1 offers a resoundingly solid start to this new comic series.
Doctor Who: Origins #1 is out on 8th June from Titan Comics.